DAILY RECORD: Cloud Rat

by | Dec 23, 2010 | MUSIC

Cloud Rat – Cloud Rat (Midwestern Decline/IFB/Otherwise Dead)

The type of band that offers a resuscitated version of a previous era’s music often does so with a strict and wildly inaccurate set of blinders on. Legions of Farfisa-bashing garage bands would have you believe that the youth of 1966 were foaming at the mouth over The Monks or The Seeds rather than the Petula Clark and Monkees albums which more likely graced their turntables. All the denim-vested flipped-brim-hatted hardcore revivalists likely see 1983 as a time when every punker worldwide was losing it to Koro and Death Side records when in reality more of them were more invested in T.S.O.L. or something equally odious. And you can’t blame them really. All these once-obscure gems are as easily accessible as a weather forecast these days, and it can be difficult to forget that a lot of really spectacular music wasn’t always easy to come by.


Cloud Rat – Cloud Rat (Midwestern Decline/IFB/Otherwise Dead)

The type of band that offers a resuscitated version of a previous era’s music often does so with a strict and wildly inaccurate set of blinders on. Legions of Farfisa-bashing garage bands would have you believe that the youth of 1966 were foaming at the mouth over The Monks or The Seeds rather than the Petula Clark and Monkees albums which more likely graced their turntables. All the denim-vested flipped-brim-hatted hardcore revivalists likely see 1983 as a time when every punker worldwide was losing it to Koro and Death Side records when in reality more of them were more invested in T.S.O.L. or something equally odious. And you can’t blame them really. All these once-obscure gems are as easily accessible as a weather forecast these days, and it can be difficult to forget that a lot of really spectacular music wasn’t always easy to come by.

I’m not saying that a band like Cloud Rat is intentionally offering up a revised version of mid-90s hardcore. I don’t know enough about them to make a claim like that, and their website is contains few background details, apart from their status as a trio, their statement of opposition to oppression (always a plus), and a few, largely blurry photographs of a relatively young-looking group. But the music contained on their album is like an alternate version of the hardcore that existed between ten and twenty years ago; a version stripped of its bullshit–no hardliners, no rock star pretensions, no Victory Records. But, like other acts crossing into territory first explored in bygone decades, theirs is a music that could only really be made now. I’ve played the album for several people who had been around that scene in years past, and each seemed to pick out a different set of influences–Inept and .Nema, Antischism and Initial State, Portrait and To Dream Of Autumn–largely-forgotten names at this point (unfortunately) which were tied to smaller geographical regions at the time of their existences.

It’s hard to shake the feeling that this album is a throwback, but assessing the music is such is hardly intended as an insult. Anybody who has been part of DIY hardcore knows of the captivating power it can possess–the ebullient energy, the audacious hope that a hand-crafted din could shape the world for the better. I hate to sound like a crotchety old man complaining about how things aren’t as good as they used to be–there were plenty of problems then and plenty of great things happening now–but few bands have really captured the spirit of the best ‘90s underground bands, and fewer still have done it as well as Cloud Rat. And it’s not just the music. The album cover is printed on the inside of another album cover (I got a recycled True North lp). Its release was a collaborative effort between three labels. In a 21st Century twist on getting a free demo for the cost of postage and a cassette tape, they posted the entire album for download on their website. Hell, they even have a poem in one of their songs. It has been at least a decade since I’ve heard a band do that.

I don’t mean to paint this band too strongly into a corner, though. It’s certainly required listening for anybody who thought hardcore peaked with the One Eyed God Prophecy album, or who ever wrote a self-righteous letter to Heartattack, but the album possesses a combination of vicious, blasting intensity and mournful melody that could appeal to fans of heavier music, regardless of what point in time it adheres to. There is no question that Cloud Rat proudly displays a very genre- and time-specific set of influences. But if their music is a throwback at all, it is to the best moments of an exciting, if musically hit-or-miss, era. You’ll rarely hear me say this, but if this is revisionism, then count me in.

Marilyn Drew Necci

Marilyn Drew Necci

GayRVA editor-in-chief, RVA Magazine editor for print and web. Anxiety expert, proud trans woman, happily married.




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